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22 Habits That Are Making You Age Faster

Cut back on these practices today for a more beautiful, healthier tomorrow.

Top view of woman setting food on wooden table for housewarming party. Female preparing a table outdoors with food and drink.Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Throwing the most elaborate, perfect party ever

Perfectionism is a toxic side effect of our social-media-saturated culture, causing undue stress as we try to keep up with not just the Joneses but with everyone else on the planet, according to psychotherapist Mike Dow, PsyD, PhD, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think, Act & Be Happy. “Perfectionism plagues the brain with negative thoughts which cause a release of stress hormones, and that can actually accelerate aging,” he explains. “While it’s fantastic to want to do your best, it’s also OK to have a B+ house party or to take a day off to relax and do nothing.” Find out more about how negative thinking can age you faster.

Lonely Asian woman is eating alone on bed in bright morning.Rachata Teyparsit/Shutterstock

Ignoring your depression and hoping it goes away

Recent research has found that depression isn’t just uncomfortable; it also makes you age faster by accelerating brain shrinkage, Dr. Dow says. Take your mental health as seriously as your physical health and be sure to seek professional help if you’ve been struggling with dark days for more than two weeks. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, can help you feel happier fast, he adds. Find out the 12 signs that your brain is aging faster than you are.

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Being too busy to slap on some sunscreen every morning

It doesn’t matter if you’re not hitting the beach or spending all day outside—you still need to apply sunscreen every day, says Jacob Steiger, MD, a facial plastic surgeon. The sun is the biggest factor in aging skin, so if you don’t want wrinkles before your time, make sure you’re applying a lotion with at least SPF 30 every morning, he says. His pro tip: Put it on first before any makeup or other products. Then check out these 12 anti-aging secrets dermatologists won’t tell you for free.

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Having a cigarette or two on the weekends

Think that just because you’re only a “social smoker,” you’re safe from the harmful effects of cigarettes? Nope. Tobacco contains more than 3,800 chemical components, which can damage skin tissue, making you older both inside and out, Dr. Steiger says. “Smoking also triggers enzymes that break down the skin’s elasticity and cause fine lines and wrinkles,” he adds. Your cigarette habit may even make your hair go gray and many other sneaky reasons behind what causes gray hair.

Happy friends holding each

Bailing on girls’ or guys’ night out

Friends aren’t just good for remembering your birthday or picking you up from the airport; friendships also have powerful anti-aging benefits. “Studies have shown that people with a strong social network and satisfying relationships tend to lead longer (not to mention happier) lives,” says Hersha Diaz, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist. Set a monthly friend night and resist the urge to skip it for an evening on the couch with Netflix.

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Having a to-do list longer than your grocery list

In our “go, go, go” culture, it’s natural to have daily demands and deadlines, but if you’re constantly running from one thing to the next, caught in a whirlwind of business, you are aging yourself faster, Dr. Diaz says. “Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to constrict, and chronic stress increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. It can also cause or exacerbate mental health problems,” she explains. Find out the 12 telltale signs that you’re more stressed than you think.

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Hitting up the coffeehouse every day

Drinking coffee is a major part of many people’s daily lives, but your java habit may be aging you, says David Greuner, MD, of NYC Surgical Associates. “Coffee lowers dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone that keeps appearance youthful and reduces inflammation.” Levels of this critical hormone start to drop naturally as you age, and coffee accelerates the process. Limit yourself to one or two cups a day, max. Here are the 15 signals that your body is aging faster than you are.

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Sleeping on a cheap pillowcase

Think about it: Every night you’re pressing the delicate skin of your face into your pillow for eight hours straight. So if your pillowcase is made from anything other than silk, you could be bringing on premature wrinkles and sagging, Dr. Greuner says. “Pillowcases made of cotton restrict your skin from smoothly moving and keeping its natural shape and form,” he explains. Learn the 9 ways that not getting enough sleep affects your looks.

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Ordering a bottle of wine to go with dinner

When it comes to aging and alcohol, there’s a fine line between protective and problematic. Some studies have found that the occasional glass of wine may offer some anti-aging benefits, but more than one drink a day can decrease your lifespan, says Bindaya Gandhi, MD. “Excessive alcohol consumption ages people faster by causing a neurodegenerative decline, worsening hormone imbalances, causing sleep problems, and increasing body fat, which can lead to numerous (and aging) medical problems like diabetes,” she explains. Here are 17 ways to cut back on drinking.

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Hunching over your laptop

You know the posture that elderly people tend to get, that makes them chronically hunched over? Now people are getting that at much younger ages because so many of us are constantly bending over a phone, laptop, or tablet, says David A. Shapiro, DC, CEO of Complete Spine Solutions. “Also known as ‘tech neck,’ this forward head posture rounds the upper back and puts stress on the front of the spine,” he explains. This habit can actually weaken your spinal structure, causing arthritis, a common ailment among older people, he adds. Avoid these 7 exercise mistakes that make you look older.

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Eating junk food

No one thinks junk food is good for us (right?!), but eating processed, low-nutrient foods regularly can age you faster than you can say “Where’s my denture cream?” according to author and registered dietitian Shawn M. Talbott, PhD. “Eating a diet full of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, like the Mediterranean diet, helps you sleep better and protects against stress—two things that will help you look and feel younger,” he says. Check out these 12 foods that could add years to your life.

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Using a straw

Plastic straws are not only bad for the environment—they’re also bad for you, causing you to look older than you are, says Joseph Cruise, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon. “Using your lips to sip from a straw can lead to lip lines and wrinkles surrounding your mouth,” he explains. Thankfully, the solution is simple: Ditch the straw and drink your (unsweetened) beverage straight from the glass.

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Not wearing sunglasses

Who hasn’t forgotten her sunglasses on the front seat of the car and accidentally crunched a pair? Time to take better care of your glasses so they can take care of your eyes, Dr. Cruise says. Not only does wearing sunglasses (yes, even on cloudy days!) help prevent fine lines around your eyes, but they also help protect your eyes from cancer and cataracts and help keep your vision sharp. Check out the 16 signs that your face is aging faster than you are.

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Eating big meals

Eating large meals more than twice a week can accelerate aging because overindulging puts oxidative stress on your cells, according to emergency physician Chirag Shah, MD, co-founder of Accesa Labs. “Eating small, regular meals and reducing food intake by 50 percent or more can help slow down the aging process,” he explains. “Less energy is needed by the body to digest the food and can be utilized for other, more valuable metabolic processes that help improve cell and organ health.” Find out the 6 eating habits of people who live to 100.

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Not using that gym membership

You had the best of intentions when you signed up at the gym in January. But now it’s almost fall and you’ve barely made it there twice. Unfortunately, not getting enough exercise is one of the fastest ways to age your body, Dr. Shah says. Take the wasteful stress off your wallet and your body by making a commitment to hit the gym, even if it’s just to walk on the treadmill while you watch a show, at least three times a week, he advises. Exercise doesn’t have to be tough to make a big difference—that’s one of the 8 common aging myths, debunked.

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Skipping the weight machines

Muscle strength directly correlates to how well you age, says Barry Sears, MD, author of the Zone Diet book series and president of the nonprofit Inflammation Research Foundation. Increasing your muscle mass by strength training (at the gym or in your daily life) helps protect your heart, brain, and bones, helping you look and feel younger, he explains. Need ideas? Start with the best anti-aging workout, scientifically speaking.

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Not taking care of your smile

Your teeth are one of the first places to show the wear and tear of aging, according to celebrity dentist Jon Marashi, DDS. Protect your youthful smile by brushing and flossing daily and seeing your dentist for regular checkups. Investing in whitening strips or other cosmetic procedures (talk to your dentist) can take years off your look, he adds.

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Buying only fat-free foods

Eating a low-fat diet may help you lose weight (or not), but one thing it definitely does is speed up the aging process, says Usama Azam, MD, of Health Tips Hub. Omega-3 fatty acids—a type of fat found in fatty fish and nuts—are essential for maintaining youthful-looking skin and increasing heart health. “You must consume healthy fats on a regular basis,” he says. These are the 7 signs you’re not eating enough healthy fats.

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Wearing too much makeup

It’s a terrible catch-22: We often wear makeup to help us look younger, but much of what we put on our skin is speeding up the aging process, Dr. Azam says. “Wearing too much makeup clogs the skin pores and removes the natural oils which protect the skin, both of which can cause premature lines and wrinkles,” he says. Many makeups also contain harsh chemicals and toxins. These 19 makeup tips can make you look naturally gorgeous.

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Skipping out on sexy times

A lack of physical intimacy means missing out on a wealth of physical benefits that can increase both the length and quality of your life, says Laura Deitsch, a licensed clinical professional counselor and sexologist for Vibrant. “Sex has been found to decrease blood pressure, boost the immune system, reduce headache pain, improve bladder control in women, and decrease the chances of prostate cancer in men, just to name a few youthful benefits,” she says. Here’s how many times you need to have sex to slow down aging.

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Not having good sex

Having sex is a great start, but if you’re routinely missing out on orgasms, then you’re not getting the maximum anti-aging benefits, Dr. Deitsch says. “Achieving climax can boost self-esteem, decrease anxiety and depression, and give your body a big dose of oxytocin, the happy hormone,” she explains.  Here are 7 other health benefits of sex that may surprise you.

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Not having any hobbies

Bowling, painting, book club, pottery, building Lego castles—it doesn’t matter so much what you do, as long as you do something that allows you to be creative, according to a George Washington University study. Researchers found that people who engaged in a regular hobby—like singing in a choir—had fewer doctor’s visits, needed less medication, and had a happier outlook on life than a similar group that didn’t have a hobby.  Next, check out 15 habits you didn’t know were aging your brain.